FREE ADVICE TO GROW A SUCCESSFUL RESTAURANT BUSINESS

  "There are many serious problems with the restaurant industry today and it is driving business down!"

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Noisy Atmosphere - A loud restaurant is an assault upon your customer's senses.  Most have been driving in traffic and are tired and need to eat and converse (talk) in peace, not be blasted with loud music.  Some need to read reports or the newspaper.  Loud music is the #1 problem driving your customers away from your restaurant.  Your (business ignorant) employees have turned your fine establishment into a loud annoying night club atmosphere.  Turn off the music and you will see an increase in business, but it will take time to recover from the damages.  People still remember the unpleasant atmosphere and are avoiding your restaurant.  You should run an advertisement or set up a window or outdoor sign, "peaceful quiet dining - guaranteed" to recover from the damage.  If you are playing loud music, you are losing a lot of money.  In a loud environment people rush to eat and skip desert.  They eat and run to escape from the noise and they do this by ordering the cheapest menu item.  Make sure your manager can turn the music volume off or down.  Many owners or the managers leave the stereo on too loud and nobody can turn it off.  Elderly employees always turn up the music too loud because they have lost hearing capacity.  The young employee wants to party.  Both age groups are bad for business when they have control over the music volume.  Seriously considering zero music.  You may be surprised how peaceful your restaurant will be with an increase in business with loyal and repeat customers you will gain.  Make sure loud noise from the kitchen does not flow into the dining area, this is very important.

Soft Music - If you must have music it must be whisper quiet, in the background so people can talk without raising their voice.  Think of a fine steak house atmosphere.  Even a fast food restaurant needs to quiet down the atmosphere.  Why?  Eating is eating and the same peaceful atmosphere is required.  Do not let ignorant employees drive you out of business or hurt sales.  Keep the music level low and soothing.  Many smart businesses are shutting off the music entirely and discovering a huge success of increased business.  Try it.  Remember to select the proper music when dining to set an easy listening atmosphere.  Rock, rap, hip-hop, wild jazz, disco is not appropriate for dining.  Your employees may want the party atmosphere, but your customers do not.  The customer pays the bills.

Impolite Employees - Order takers or waiter/waitresses who are in a bad mood will come off as being rude.  Temporarily or permanently rotate this moody employee away from the front counter or their attitude will certainly force customers to do business elsewhere.  People have no tolerance to be mistreated by restaurant employees and they will hold a long grudge.  Train your employees to greet each customer in a polite manner.   

Forced Tips - Do not fall into the trap some businesses are doing.  Forcing customers to pay a mandatory gratuity.  Let the employee "earn their tips" from "good service."  A rude and uncaring employee should not be rewarded for destroying your business.  Let good service always remain as the central core of your business.

Manager's Responsibility - Make sure your manager(s) sit at the tables and test them to see how many are rocking and spilling drinks.  You will be amazed how many defective tables you may find that anger your customers.  Does one table when applying elbow pressure move the adjacent table?  That is annoying to all of your customers that sit in such defective booths.   What about the seating?  When was the last time your manager sat in the seats us customers must sit in?  Are the seat cushions broken?  If your tables wobble and spill drinks and your seats are broken then  you deserve an empty restaurant.  You need to be aware of customer service to make sure your customers are "happy" not complaining from discomfort.  Is your manager communicating with you of such things needing to be repaired or is he simply oblivious to these basic principles? 

Cleanliness - Sure, the restrooms should be clean, but don't forget the floors, windows and sills.  Clean up everything that can be seen.  Customers hate dirty restaurants.  Even if it is clean a surface may visually appear dirty and will need new paint.  Clean!  Clean!  Clean!  Parking lot too must be clean.

Hand Towels - Do not use those no-touch hand air driers.  Why?  Because now your customer has to use a "bare hand" to open the door and they hate that.  Why?  Because they just saw four people not wash their hands and touched the door handle.  Paper hand towels may be expensive, but when you try to save cost at the expense of sanitation, your customers frown and generate a dislike for you and your restaurant.  Do not treat customers with disrespect.  Make sure you also have soap in the restroom and sanitary toilet seat covers.  A clean restroom is like advertising, " we truly do care about you ."  A dirty restaurant restroom says, " we hope you catch a disease and you don't come back ."

Flies - Get rid of them.  You can't have flies competing with your customers.  Buy a fly swatter and use it often.  Instruct employees that you now have a new policy; zero tolerance of flies.  Don't leave dead flies as is.  Wipe up the mess right away after swatting them.  There are products you can buy to cut down on flies.  It is a battle, but it is one you must win or you may go out of  business or seriously cripple your business potential.  Do you like eating with flies?

Clean Menus - Wash those menus.  How many times have you been handed a menu that is smeared with grease, oil and dried food crud?  The menus must be cleaned, inside and out.

Class - Strive to maintain an atmosphere of a high class establishment, even if it isn't, just strive to be.  People will take notice of the effort.  You need to be "different" to attract and retain customers.  Competition is fierce and unforgiving.

Consultant - Hire a competent and proven successful restaurant consultant who is familiar with and highly focused on "environmental quality."  The moment a customer enters your establishment they should take a deep breath and know this place is soothingly quiet, clean and comfortable.  And when greeted by your employee they are overjoyed to be made welcome. 

Food Quality - You would think this is obvious, but it is not.  Cooks do fall asleep at the wheel and the manager often does not taste the food periodically to insure quality control.  Instruct your manager to randomly inspect the food for texture, taste and temperature.  Increase quality.  Do not skimp by skipping a vegetable in a meal to save money or use a canned vegetable when you should increase quality by using frozen style.  Good food must taste good.  Keep feeding people slop and they will eat elsewhere.  " If you don't eat here, we will both starve " applies.  Your manager needs to sit down and eat the food you expect others to eat.  A bad cook or a cook with a vendetta can ruin a good restaurant fast.  Quality control is on ongoing need.  Never slack on food quality.  Example: a cook may substitute a gravy that tastes horrible and is not acceptable, so watch for these things.

Water Quality - Filter your water with activated carbon to remove chlorine smell and taste.  Your customers will certainly know the difference.  Even your coffee will brew and taste better.  Nobody appreciates drinking chlorinated-tasting tap water.  It shows you care about your customers and it is an offensive insult to serve such inferior quality water to your customers.  Your manager needs to taste the water each day to maintain quality.

Who is in Control?   Somebody must be held accountable for all of the above.  Somebody must take each issue serious and diligently pursue perfection.  Incompetent employees must be trained to be competent.  Most restaurants today are "out of control" and quality control is nonexistent.  As a result customers suffer and your business suffers.  Do not let your employees run the show.  You, the owner or highly paid general manager must be involved on a personal level.  You must get involved and sit down, order a meal and listen and feel the environment.  Maybe that tipsy table will spill your coffee and a seat may cut the circulation off below the knee due to faulty design.  If you are uncomfortable, you will lose business.  If you can't tell the difference then hire someone who is a professional to insure you are up to quality standards.

Free Sample Questionnaire - Below is a sample questionnaire you should use as a basic format.  You need customer feedback, desperately.  It is the only way to delve deeply into your customer's mind so you can make improvement and to discover serious problems.

Silverware  - Does the silverware have sharp edges (by the manufacturers  cheap stamping design) that is uncomfortable to hold in the hand?  Many restaurants have purchased cheap silverware with narrow and often sharp razor-like edges that actually cut into the fingers.  Purchase those heavy rounded versions of silverware.  Give your customer the experience of dining in an upscale restaurant.  Does the silverware still shine or has it become dull, scratched and old?

Outdoor Seating - Never install concrete or metal tables and chairs.  Why?  Because when the weather is cold customers sit with great discomfort and elbows and hands can't tolerate contacting the cold table surface.  Same with hot weather.  Uncomfortable customers will not return and you will lose business.  Consider strong "heavy duty" plastic tables and chairs that do not flex or wobble when used.  Most restaurants that use plastic often purchase cheap flimsy furnishings that easily spill drinks or chairs tip over and are plain uncomfortable.  Wicker furnishings is the best.  It never feels cold or hot and is very comfortable and the customers love it.  It also looks very classy and that is what you need to keep your business strong.  Even plastic or wood picnic tables are way better than metal or steel when it comes to temperature-related comfort.  If you do not have outdoor seating you are also restricting business as people love to sit outside when the weather permits.  Also, with outside seating shut off the music. Let customers have the choice to sit outdoors in silence or sit inside with music.  A quiet zone area will attract customers that otherwise would not visit your establishment.  And don't put trash containers next to tables where people are eating as the odor is offensive and customers will not return to eat here again.

Illegal Immigration - Beware this practice of hiring non-English-speaking-foreigners that do not know how to cook or interact with the public will absolutely kill a restaurant business.  People will not tolerate sloppy service and they should not have to!  Food quality is degenerating in many restaurants because these employees have a language barrier and they can not cook American style food.  They will serve cold food and they will unsafely prepare the food,  undercook the food, etc.  It's a real problem and when your customers get a bad case of diarrhea you can be certain they won't complain, they just won't ever come back again to your restaurant!  Be very careful who you hire because unskilled employees can wreck your business, permanently !  Whoever you hire make sure they are being supervised and the supervisor is supervised too to operate your business to your parameters.

Consistancy - Is the food being prepared properly every time?  Do you even have a "recipe" your cooks can refer to?  No recipe directions is a formula for ruin!  How many times have you eaten in a restaurant and discover the food, this time around, did not taste right?  Or plain tasted lousy?  That's because no recipe is being used to insure "consistent quality" control.

Alwayskeep improving on your quality control and your customer service.  The customer is always right, always even when he is wrong.  Get it?  Give refunds if need be with a smile.  One person badmouthing your business can spread to 3,000 people and if it hits the Internet and social sites watch out as tens of thousands of people can give you a bad rap reputation in minutes!  Your restaurant is in the "enjoyment business" and its got to be a happy experience or your business will stagnate and eventually fail.

Advertisingis a waste of money if you do not deliver on the promise.  If your food or service or both is lousy all you are doing is attracting people to become disgruntled customers who in turn will be badmouthing your restaurant making up jokes about your food and service that will wipe out profits and crush your dreams.  Word of mouth is still best advertising and if you have good food you are going to win.  You will lose if the food tastes bad and the dining environment is uncomfortable.

You Be The Judgehow great your restaurant truly is by testing it yourself.  Are the chairs so terrible that it cuts circulation off under the knees?  It the table rocking so items spill?  Is the table set so low you have to stoop to eat?  Table set so high it's just no fun?  What about the atmosphere?  Are there two radios or two TV's conflicting with each other making a bunch of nonsense noise?  Volumes too loud? It is too loud if you can feel the music or see customers tapping their feet to the music.  It means the music is now taking over the "senses" instead of the "food" and people won't remember how good your food was will they?   They won't!  Loud music distracts everybody, customers and employees and pollutes the mind erasing the good experiences from customer's memories.  Very, very, few restaurants can thrive with an ongoing nuisance inside.  Employees love loud music, but customers don't.  This is important to remember at all times.  Sometimes the problems are so severe that even you can't see the problems anymore.  Hire a consultant to examine your business.  A good free consultant?  Go to a high class successful restaurant (not a chain type restaurant) and observe, taste, listen, enjoy and copy the environment as much as you can.   

FREE RESTAURANT CUSTOMER QUESTIONNAIRE

  "The worst questionnaire is one that is too long and difficult to answer."

Let people answer the questions in their own words.  It is the only accurate way to get results.  And keep this in mind, only one of one-hundred customers will bother to fill out a questionnaire.  With that in mind, ninety-nine may feel likewise to each person who has responded.  Just because only three people bothered to fill out your questionnaire it means 300 people feel the same way!  And always have a "suggestion box" all of the time, not just some of the time.  The box should be locked so the manager or employees can't steal them away to protect their jobs.  The best restaurants will use the postal mail (with postage prepaid).  Why?  Customers do not want to be "identified" when giving constructive advice or risk retaliation from an angry employee.  Mail delivery permits privacy and your customers will "open up" and tell you the way it is.  And that is what you need to know!

"Believe it or not.  Most customers want  you to succeed, that is why they come.  Give them a chance to help you to succeed!"

RESTAURANT CUSTOMER QUESTIONNAIRE

  What did you feel when you first walked into our restaurant?  ____________________________.

  Was the music volume too loud? _______________________________.

  Is the table where you ate to your liking?  ________________________________.

  How was the comfort of your seat? _______________________________.

  Was the menu delivered to you clean?  _________________________.

  Was the price of the food up to your quality standards?  ____________________.

  Were you greeted in a friendly manner and did you feel welcome?  _______________.

  Please name the employee you believe deserves recognition for a job well done?  ____________________.

  Was the restrooms clean and well supplied?  __________________________.

  What should we remove from our menu?  _____________________________.

  What should we add to our menu?  _____________________________.

  Would you like to see heart healthy menu options?  _____________________________.

  Would you like to see diabetic menu options?  _____________________________.

  How about a senior citizen discount?  _____________________________.

  Tell us in your own words what we need to do to make your dining experience better: ________________________.

  ______________________________________________________________________________________________

  ______________________________________________________________________________________________

  ______________________________________________________________________________________________.

Optional :  Write your Name, Address, Phone, E-mail if you want us to contact you.

  ___________________________________________________.

  ___________________________________________________.

  ___________________________________________________.

  ___________________________________________________.

Note :  If you want to entice customers to submit your survey you could offer a free sandwich or cup of coffee that you will send to them in the mail when they mail in the questionnaire.  Of course you can add items to your questionnaire, but will it enhance customer comfort and satisfaction?  Keep it simple, get a handle on this survey first before you attempt deeper surveys in the future.  You will be surprised to see the results of this survey.  Your customers know your business more than you do.

PUBLISHING RIGHTS - the article is copyrighted December 1, 2004, but you are granted the right to publish the article herein titled "Free Advice to Grow Your Restaurant Business" in perpetuity.  You must include the entire article as is, with no changes of wording.  That includes the commentary section by James Russell.  We do request you give full credits to James Russell Publishing and to post an active Website link to James Russell Publishing Website. This publishing right may also be arbitrarily rejected and withdrawn if the article is misused or employed into an obscene or an offensive environment of which it was not intended to be portrayed. JamesRussellPublishing.com

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